With the release of Guilds of Ravnica, Legacy received one of the most powerful removal spells ever, Assassin's Trophy. As I was playing leagues, I was really hoping to run into this card more to see it in action. In this version of the list, there are two Past in Flames in the sideboard, which was an attempt to help the control match-ups. This plan was furthered by the second Cabal Ritual in the main deck over the fourth Chrome Mox, which was moved to the sideboard. These changes allow the deck to grind better. Leaving the fourth Chrome Mox in the sideboard allows for faster plans against other combo decks and prison decks.
This month, there are a couple of cantrip focused situations. Brainstorm and Ponder are incredibly powerful cards and can be used to transform a mediocre hand into a kill with a single cantrip! Recognizing situations where a hand is a cantrip away from a kill is important to playing the deck.
A few words on Caleb Scherer (cws):
I’m Caleb Scherer, a mid-west streamer and grinder on the Star City Games Tour® circuit. I’ve been crazy about the storm mechanic ever since it was printed—I am also a proud cat dad and minimalist.
Sneak & Show is another combo deck that happens to be a more difficult matchup. While the deck is generally weak to discard effects, between taking counterspells and combo pieces, our discard suite is quite taxed. Balancing creating opportunities to kill the opponent and not letting the opponent combo themselves is a key point in the matchup.
Welcome to a stalled out game two. The opponent and I have been drawing off the tops of our decks for several turns after they put a Sneak Attack into play early. Two turns previously, they cast Force of Will on a Thoughtseize. This turn is the first turn I drew action, in the form of the Brainstorm, which drew the Infernal Tutor, Bloodstained Mire, and the Burning Wish. Given that the opponent has so many outs to kill us, winning fast is important. We have lots of gas to kill our opponent, so the question is: what do you play around to win this turn?
Because the opponent countered the Thoughtseize earlier, they likely have more interaction. From the Brainstorm, I put back Lotus Petal and Chrome Mox. First, I would cast Burning Wish for Past in Flames, assuming it resolves. Then I would cast the Rite of Flame and both Dark Rituals into the Past in Flames, leaving two black mana, a single red mana, and a Lotus Petal. If the Past in Flames resolves, I would flashback a Thoughtseize to see what the opponent has. If necessary, the second Thoughtseize can be played and then both Lion's Eye Diamonds and Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony can be played. If the opponent does counter the Past in Flames, I would then play both Lion's Eye Diamonds, then Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony. If the opponent has a second piece of interaction and counters the Infernal Tutor, there is enough mana to flashback Past in Flames to recast all of the rituals and then Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony.
Let's start by resolving the Brainstorm. I would almost certainly put back the Bloodstained Mire and the Chrome Mox. I think those are the weakest cards in our hand, especially given the fact that we can generate enough storm and mana to win through a lot of hate. I think we need to start by trying to bait a counterspell or get a discard spell because there is a pretty big chance that our opponent has some sort of interaction. I would start with the traditional Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish line. There is definitely a possibility that our opponent will counter one of those spells, but let's assume that our opponent doesn't. I would grab Dark Petition, as they have locked us out of using Past in Flames with their Grafdigger's Cage. If this actually resolves, I would grab a Thoughtseize and cast it. That should hopefully clear the way for a win with Infernal Tutor grabbing the Tendrils of Agony that we sideboarded in. I think the worst case scenario would be either the opponent having double Flusterstorm, or casting Brainstorm in response to our Thoughtseize and putting a Griselbrand into play using Sneak Attack to draw a million cards. I doubt they have the cantrip though because our opponent most likely would have used it prior to this turn to try and win.
Before I give my answer, I have to say I don't agree with the sideboarding here for a few reasons:
Boarding in Tendrils of Agony doesn't really do anything for us and makes our opening hands worse
This matchup can get pretty grindy. Chrome Mox is one of your worst draws, for this reason, I think I would actually cut one instead of bringing one in
Bringing in Echoing Truth is good in case they have Leyline of Sanctity
That being said, with the list my sideboarding would look more like this:
-1 Chrome Mox, -1 Island
+2 Echoing Truth
For the actual situation at hand, I would put back Bloodstained Mire and Chrome Mox from the Brainstorm and lead off by casting Burning Wish. If they take the bait and counter it, we just play out the rest of our hand, Infernal Tutor for Tendrils, and kill them. If Burning Wish Resolves, I would grab Dark Petition and then cast Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Dark Petition. If Dark Petition resolves, I would grab Duress to secure the win for us. If Dark Petition gets countered, I would play Lotus Petal, both copies of Lion's Eye Diamond, crack both copies of Lotus Petal for one red and one black, play Rite of Flame, play Infernal Tutor, crack both copies of Lion's Eye Diamond for six black mana total, and grab Tendrils of Agony to win the game.
I think our chances of winning here are pretty high.
I would put back the Bloodstained Mire and Chrome Mox. We need all of our cards, and I would rather have a ritual than a land at this point, for storm count. After Brainstorm resolved I'd sacrifice the Polluted Delta to get the basic Swamp to cast both copies of Dark Ritual then the Rite of Flame off Badlands, along with all the artifact mana. We have enough mana to play around any Spell Pierces here, but we need to fight through a Force of Will or a Flusterstorm. I think if they have both we can't win. I could have played the Burning Wish for the second spell of the turn, so the opponent can't Flusterstorm it, but that still loses to Force of Will + Flusterstorm. Once all the mana has resolved I would cast the Burning Wish and it would probably get countered by one of those and then be able to Infernal Tutor (sacrificing the two Lion's Eye Diamond) to Tendrils of Agony. If the Burning Wish resolved for some reason then I would just get the Past in Flames.
Put back Bloodstained Mire and Chrome Mox. After playing and using all of your mana sources, you'll have ten mana and two Lion's Eye Diamonds. Use Burning Wish and if it resolves, get Dark Petition. Play Dark Petition and if it resolves, find Tendrils of Agony. The Tendrils of Agony is lethal, but even if they have Flusterstorm, we still have two mana floating and Lion's Eye Diamonds, so we can pay for enough copies to deal them exactly 16. If for some reason this doesn't work though, we have Infernal Tutor and two mana floating plus two Lion's Eye Diamonds, which is enough to Ad Nauseam and hopefully find a way to Past in Flames plus Pulverize, or just make a very large number of Goblin tokens.
Is there anything you HAVE to play around with 2 business spells and an absurd amount of mana? You can chain the Rituals and Burning Wish for Dark Petition to fetch a Duress to remove whatever your opponent had left as protection. Then proceed to drop the pair of Lions Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony.
This seems like an embarrassment of riches situation. Typically in a scenario like this, you would get Past in Flames, but due to Grafdigger's Cage it has been shut off. You just play all of your mana into Burning Wish, get Dark Petition, if that resolves, get Duress. From there play Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony.
Here I would put back the land and Chrome Mox. Then we will have the ability to make 10 mana (not counting the pair of Lion's Eye Diamond) if all of our "rituals" and Lotus Petal resolve. They only have 2 cards and then also with them playing so defensively, they are probably holding some interaction. Now if we cast all our "rituals" and artifacts we are still insulated against surgical and Storm would be 7, thus we can then Burning Wish for Empty the warrens as it would be lethal next turn. Plus, then if they have Flusterstorm they would cast it so we would then cast Infernal Tutor cracking the pair of Lion's Eye Diamond and Tendrils of Agony for lethal. This puts us dead to double Flusterstorm but given how they have played and what is on board I feel comfortable going for it. This plays around Force of Will + Flusterstorm as well too.
Honestly, this is a really awkward Ponder. Empty the Warrens is great in the matchup, but it is hard to generate enough storm to a comfortable amount fast enough. Next turn, at maximum, Empty the Warrens could be cast at 4 storm — Polluted Delta, Chrome Mox (imprinting Ad Nauseam), Dark Ritual, Duress. This assumes that the opponent has no interaction for the Dark Ritual. To me, that makes Empty the Warrens not as good of a card here. Lion's Eye Diamond does not help either plan of Empty the Warrens or the Ad Nauseam. The best card in the Ponder might be the Polluted Delta, as it allows us to get red and black mana. Because there are two cards that do not really help and a mediocre card, I think I would shuffle this Ponder and hope to draw more rituals and initial mana sources.
I think for a mulligan to six, this ended up working out pretty nicely for us. We have two very solid plays that we can attempt as early as our next turn. I would resolve the Ponder by putting the Lion's Eye Diamond on the bottom, the Empty the Warrens in the middle, and the Polluted Delta on top. That way if the opponent has a turn one discard spell, they won't have any knowledge of our Empty the Warrens. I think my play is so dependent on what their turn one play is, that it is hard to answer this. Making 8 goblins after turn one is pretty slow against Delver, especially against the version that runs Young Pyromancer. I think I would try to be patient and resolve Ad Nauseam, but we would probably need to shuffle away the Lion's Eye Diamond to hope that we hit an additional mana source on turn three, so that we can Duress prior to going off. This again assumes that we make it to our third turn with Ad Nauseam in our hand still.
I would draw Polluted Delta here and crack it on our turn to play around Stifle. I think out hand is pretty all in on Ad Nauseam because of how awkward the Mana is here, it would be hard to cast Duress and then combo into Empty the Warrens on the same turn, and Lion's Eye Diamond does nothing here. I would wait to cast the Duress only because there's no guarantee we can go off next turn and our opponent has not presented a clock yet, so we're not under any pressure.
I think this is a scenario we need to be setting up for an early Empty the Warrens. There's a reason we max out on them in post-board games. I would put Lion's Eye Diamond on the bottom and Polluted Delta on top as the card we draw. I think we are just a little low on our resources to go for a big Empty the Warrens or an early Ad Nauseam without exposing it to too many counterspells. I would plan on our turn two to play Chrome Mox, imprinting Ad Nauseam, Dark Ritual, Duress, tap two lands, and then cast Empty the Warrens for 8 goblins. Obviously, the plan could easily change based on what our opponent does turn 1, but this plays around Wasteland, a few counterspells, and clears the way of any wrath effect.
A lot of it depends on exactly how you think Grixis Delver players are sideboarding relative to Empty the Warrens. The two best choices to me involve planning to take Polluted Delta and draw Lion's Eye Diamond next turn, and then use Polluted Delta to find Swamp and cast Duress, setting up for a very likely Ad Nauseam on the following turn. This line is fine but is weak to many combinations of cards. Alternatively, we can Polluted Delta and Empty the Warrens, and then on the following turn plan to cast Dark Ritual and Duress and Empty the Warrens. 8 Goblin tokens on the play on turn two is almost certainly good enough, but the issue is that this line is very weak to Force of Will because we have to expose our Dark Ritual to it. Our Ad Nauseam in two turns line allows us to protect our spells from a Force of Will, but then we still get crushed by even just a Daze. We also get very little bluff value, because once we play Chrome Mox and then Dark Ritual, we've made it pretty clear that we need this Dark Ritual to resolve. For that reason, I'd rather take the Ad Nauseam line and accept that we lose to two counterspells, because I'm not confident the Empty the Warrens line even beats a single counterspell against a good player.
Draw the land, float Empty the Warrens and keep the Lion's Eye Diamond on the bottom.
Once your opponent passes their turn, you have 2 lands, a Chrome Mox with imprint options and a Dark Ritual to slam Ad Nauseam and draw into the Lions Eye Diamond. Alternatively, you can imprint the Ad Nauseam and cast Duress into Empty the Warrens. You can also hide Empty the Warrens in case your opponent casts a discard spell (probably binning the Ad Nauseam), leaving you with a backup plan.
This is a good scenario! I would keep it putting the land on top, Empty the Warrens, and then the Lion's Eye Diamond. On the second turn, I'm likely going all in — Chrome Mox, Dark Ritual, Duress, and finally cast Empty the Warrens. You're in a tough spot because if the Dark Ritual is countered you pretty much lose. Because of this, I would disguise my red source by leaving the Polluted Delta un-cracked. You can't afford to sit and wait, I also don't like any line that passes the turn with Duress as you'll have to search up Badlands and pray that they don't have a Wasteland.
This is a great scenario dealing with not just cards you want but also the fuel for Chrome Mox problem. Here I would put Lion's Eye Diamond on the bottom, Empty the Warrens in the middle, and draw The Polluted Delta. This way if they don't lead on discard we can choose to fetch for Swamp and cast Duress. Then still have the resources for casting Ad Nauseam. Also, in the case they do cast discard they will be most likely taking Ad Nauseam so then we will have Empty the Warrens concealed and then shuffle with the Polluted Delta to not draw Lion's Eye Diamond. It is worth noting if we wanted to play around solely Daze we can with the Lion's Eye Diamond in the middle instead but they kept 7 on the draw so likely have something better than only cantrips with Delver of Secrets plus Daze.
SITUATION #3 - Shardless BUG
Shardless is a deck that has been significantly rarer since the banning of Sensei's Divining Top, but with the release of Guilds of Ravnica and Assassin's Trophy, it may come back onto the radar. With strong card advantage through Ancestral Vision and utility creatures such as Shardless Agent and Baleful Strix. Letting the game go long leaves us at a significant disadvantage as they can bury us in card advantage.
This is game one and the opponent has been building up a clock while drawing new cards. Last turn, Past in Flames was fetched with Burning Wish to attempt to win this turn. However, Wasteland destroyed Badlands leaving the only available red source as Lotus Petal. How do you win this turn?
The limiting factor in this situation is the lack of red mana. There is only one red mana in the Lotus Petal. Because of that, casting Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish at some point in the chain will not work. Instead, there are a couple of options. All the lines start the same: Dark Ritual, Thoughtseize, Lotus Petal, Cabal Ritual, Past in Flames, Cabal Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor. What Infernal Tutor gets is interesting. After Infernal Tutor is cast, there is 1 blue and 5 Black remaining. Getting Lion's Eye Diamond to flashback Past in Flames does not work, as there is not enough mana. Infernal Tutor could get Burning Wish and then a cantrip could be cast to find a red source. There are eleven remaining initial red sources remaining (3 Polluted Delta, 3 Bloodstained Mire, 3 Lotus Petal, 1 Volcanic Island, and 1 Badlands), which gives about a 68% chance of finding one off of Ponder. I believe that this line does not maximize the odds of winning the game. I would Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam, despite the low life total. After casting Ad Nauseam, there would be one black floating and a land drop still available, which should be plenty to win the game.
At first glance, this line looks very straightforward, but as you start to think through it, it's actually pretty tough. It was extremely devastating that the opponent had the Wasteland to destroy our second red source. Since this is game one, we would need two red sources to be able to win with a Past in Flames line, because we would need to eventually cast Burning Wish to access our sideboard. I also did the math on a line that involved us Infernal Tutoring for another copy of Lotus Petal, but we came up one mana short from a kill.
I would start by casting my Cabal Ritual, (Storm 1, 5 black mana). I thought about playing the Lotus Petal first to play around Daze, but since we need the red mana from Lotus Petal, we wouldn't be able to crack it even if we wanted to. By hiding it, the opponent might think the Cabal Ritual is a bluff, and that we don't have a red mana source for the Past in Flames. If Cabal Ritual does actually resolve, (there is a pretty high likelihood that it won't), I would cast Thoughtseize. (Storm 2, 4 black mana) Assuming that the opponent doesn't have exactly two Force of Wills, and two blue cards, I would continue to go off. Next, I would cast Infernal Tutor, revealing Dark Ritual. (Storm 3, 2 black mana). I would cast both copies of Dark Ritual. (Storm 5, 6 black mana) I would cast and crack Lotus Petal and then cast Past in Flames. (Storm 7, 3 black mana) From there, I would flashback both copies of Dark Ritual (Storm 9, 7 black mana), Cabal Ritual, (Storm 10, 10 black mana) and then Infernal Tutor. (Storm 11, 8 black mana) We have now arrived at the crossroads, where we have a really interesting choice. Do we grab a Lion's Eye Diamond to flashback our three cantrips, or do we just go for Ad Nauseam? I would personally go with Ad Nauseam. While it sucks that we don't have a guaranteed kill, our chances to win from 12 life with 3 black mana and a land drop is at least decent.
We need both black and red mana to go off this turn, so with that being said, I would lead off with Dark Ritual. If it resolves I would then cast Thoughtseize. Assuming the coast is clear I would then cast Cabal Ritual, then cast Lotus Petal and crack it for red, then I would cast Past in Flames and flashback both Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual. At this point, we have seven black mana floating and Island untapped. I would then flashback a Ponder and hope to find a Lotus Petal or a land that can produce red mana, as that would let us use Internal Tutor to find Burning Wish and then cast Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony for the win. If this Ponder is unsuccessful, I would then cast Infernal Tutor to find Ad Nauseam and try to win that way.
Since they are a Shardless Agent deck, and it's game one, the only real possible counterspell to expect is a Force of Will. They also know we have a Past in Flames in hand, so I'd imagine they will be trying to save their Force of Will for it specifically. I would start off by tapping the basic Swamp for Dark Ritual, and then using one of those black mana and then Island for Infernal Tutor for a second copy of Lotus Petal. With the two black floating, I would cast Cabal Ritual into Thoughtseize. We need to clear the way for this Past in Flames. Leaving me with 4 black mana and 2 unused Lotus Petals. Sacrificing one of them and using 3 of the black mana we can use Past in Flames. Just enough mana left over to cast Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam. There are numerous ways to get to this point, and I'm not sure this was the best or if there's a way to generate 1 more mana to Burning Wish for Tendrils, but you could also Empty the Warrens here for like 30, but I would go with Ad Nauseam in case of any main deck wraths. You could also Infernal Tutor for a copy of Cabal Ritual, but I think that makes the opponent more willing to counter your first Cabal Ritual, and if they do that you lose. That's why I ended up going this route even though you could have more black mana floating, but with only one red mana then.
We have a few different interesting lines, none of which are deterministic, that require us to hit certain mana sources with a Ponder that we flashback. There are two lines that I think give us the best chance to win. First is to Infernal Tutor for another Cabal Ritual and leave ourselves with twelve black mana after emptying our hand and flashing back all of the rituals. We can then flashback Infernal Tutor for Lion's Eye Diamond, use it to make blue, and bank on our two Ponders and a Brainstorm finding us some combination of tutors and red mana sources. Alternatively, I think the better line is to do all of that and then instead of getting Lion's Eye Diamond, just get Ad Nauseam. An Ad Nauseam from twelve with a ton of black mana floating and a land drop is very likely to win the game.
Once you notice that the requirements for Threshold are already met and you need two red mana total, the plan becomes obvious: Cast Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Thoughtseize to discard your own Past in Flames to enable hellbent for Infernal Tutor, then search with Infernal Tutor for Lion's Eye Diamond and use it to flashback Past in Flames with enough red & black mana to replay your "ritual effects." Finish the game with the usual Tutor-Wish-Tendrils chain.
Another good one. Based off the image we don't know our opponent's hand, there are two good lines. One is a deterministic kill that loses to Force of Will or Surgical Extraction and the other is non-deterministic but high probably with protection from the Thoughtseize. I would rather take the high-probability, non-deterministic route.
The interesting thing here is that you need two red mana in order to win. I would start off by casting Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (B - Storm 2)revealing: Cabal Ritual, Tap Island and cast Cabal Ritual (BBBBB - Storm 3), Thoughtseize (BBBB - Storm 4 | 12 life), Cabal Ritual (BBBBBBB - Storm 5), Lotus Petal (BBBBBBB - Storm 6), and finally cast Past in Flames (BBBB - Storm 7). Dark Ritual(BBBBBB - Storm 8), Cabal Ritual (BBBBBBBBB - Storm 9), Cabal Ritual (BBBBBBBBBBBB - Storm 10), Infernal Tutor (BBBBBBBBBB - Storm 11), and Ad Nauseam (BBBBB - Storm 12). Five mana floating and 12 life should be more than enough resources to work with. You could instead get Lion's Eye Diamond and hope to win off of cantrips, but that's wishful thinking in my eyes.
This is one of the really cool lines where we get to use our discard on ourselves to enable Infernal Tutor. I would start by casting both "rituals" and the Lotus Petal going up to 8 mana available the Thoughtseize ourselves taking Past in Flames. Now we can cast Infernal Tutor for Lion's Eye Diamond and then sacrifice that for red mana. Thus, we are at 3 red and 5 black mana in our pool. Now we can Flashback Past in Flames floating 1 red and 2 black mana then cast Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual using the black mana. Now with 1 red and 7 black mana, we cast Infernal again finding Burning Wish and then cast it fetching Tendrils using all of our mana.
At the end of the month, I wasn't thrilled with this list. Obviously, there have been new site lists posted, that went back on some of the innovations in this list. Personally, I love the first Cabal Ritual. I think it adds some extra explosiveness in a pseudo fifth Lion's Eye Diamond. The second one leads to some awkward draws in terms of being able to have black and red mana on a combo turn. This was a problem I faced in some hands that otherwise were turn one or turn two wins. The Chrome Mox in the sideboard felt like a wasted slot. Bringing it in always felt like I was not making a substantial improvement to the matchup. The second Past in Flames was cool but again felt like very low impact. I really like where newer versions of the deck have gone and I am excited to keep playing that!
Until next time, keep storming on!
Alex McKinley is a computer scientist who loves mixing Magic: The Gathering and technology. When outside, he spends his time winning Quidditch Championships and camping.
Please note: Some of the information is dated back to the creation of The EPIC Storm, because of this everything is marked with a date. Sometimes the best inspiration for a solution or problem is…» Read More